September 4, 2013 in Nation/World

NAACP, KKK meet in Wyoming

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Jimmy Simmons, left, of the NAACP listens to klansman John Abarr in Casper, Wyo., on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

DENVER – A meeting between the Wyoming chapter of the NAACP and an organizer for the Ku Klux Klan over the weekend is believed to be the first of its kind.

The meeting between Jimmy Simmons, president of the Casper NAACP, and John Abarr, a KKK organizer from Great Falls, Mont., took place at a hotel in Casper, Wyo., under tight security.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the United Klans of America said Tuesday that the meeting is a first.

Simmons asked for the meeting following reports that KKK literature was being distributed in Gillette, about 130 miles north of Casper, and that African-American men were being beaten while out in public with white women.

“It’s about opening dialogue with a group that claims they’re trying to reform themselves from violence,” Simmons said in a telephone interview Tuesday, saying the meeting went well. “They’re trying to shed that violent skin, but it seems like they’re just changing the packaging.”

Abarr said he knows nothing about any beatings or the literature that was distributed in a residential neighborhood in October.

Gillette police Lt. Chuck Deaton said there have been 10 hate or bias crimes reported in the past five years that involved name-calling, none of them assaults on African-Americans.

The literature said, “save our land and join the Klan,” Deaton said. He said police were unable to speak with the “young man” who was distributing the material, and he was chased away by neighbors.

“In the 21 years that I’ve been here, that’s the first I heard of the Klan in Gillette,” Deaton said.

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